More efforts, together

The speech of the EU president-in-office Josè Luis Zapatero

Achieving a “competitive, innovative and socially inclusive market economy”, establishing “social pacts” between enterprises and workers, protecting the rights of the migrants. José Luis Zapatero tackled these and other themes in the speech addressed on January 20 before the European Parliament in his capacities as EU president-in-office. The Spanish premier also delved into the themes of the economy, energy, and foreign policy that will enable Europe to become “an active player” capable of addressing the ongoing crisis. The economy above all. The Spanish politician opened his speech by recalling EU-27’s “much needed relief” in the Haiti emergency. “Seeing USA helicopters and marines land in Haiti is not a problem, since their purpose it to bring relief and solidarity to the victims of the earthquake”. It is a “peace mission”. As relates to EU themes, the Spanish leader delved into the economy: “We have learned many things from the crisis. Financial markets need fixed rules and we must continue prioritizing the recovery, also with fiscal incentives, until full economic recovery is achieved. It is also necessary to address long-term problems such as the loss of competitiveness in a number of traditional economic sectors”. Zapatero indicated four priorities to this regard. The EU “needs to bet on itself, on cooperation and on the internal market”. Energy exemplifies a sector that necessitates coordination, he said. “Our external dependence is rapidly increasing, with an outgoing flow of money. Efforts should be placed on developing energy grid interconnections and renewable energy sources. But this requires specific regulation and a single internal market”. Electric cars, universities. The second point of the broad economic treatise regards investments on “new information technology tools” which nowadays “make the difference” and boost modernity (the speaker focuses especially on the digital market). Thirdly, “industry must become more sustainable, starting from the electric car project”, he claimed. The speaker probed into this theme with MEPs and answered the questions of the journalists. Zapatero announced concrete developments: “I have already met with enterprises operating in this field. A European meeting is due to be held in the six-month presidency. Once again, common regulations are needed, while both the market and the industry must be facilitated so as to prevent China and Japan from pulling ahead of us”. Last but not least, “educational excellence” must be promoted – Zapatero referred to the academic environment in particular, and on the added value of “knowledge”. Social questions. Then Zapatero passed on to a different register: “We need more Europe. We must cause division but bring people together”. In conveying to MEPs his vision of the EU the premier recalled, “The reforms that are being introduced thanks to the Lisbon Treaty grant greater democracy to the EU, and bringing it closer to its citizens”. To this regard, President Zapatero highlighted the “social” measures that ought to be prioritized in the forthcoming months. “Measures should be taken to ensure equal opportunities between man and woman” and to favor “cohesion and social inclusion, which are nonnegotiable features of the EU” (Zapatero tackled the “fight against poverty” to which the EU dedicates the Year 2010). The question of migrations was discussed at large. He mentioned the defense of the migrants, but numerous MEPs turned up their nose. Someone said, “There already are too many foreigners in Europe”. “But Europe is ageing”, he replied. “The fact that a premier says that we have the duty to ensure that the rights of all human beings, including immigrants, are enforced, causes a sensation. Indeed, we have reason for concern! In this Europe it must not happen that individuals, families and children are rejected”, ushered away and granted no help. Tolerance and respect. As relates to foreign policy the speaker identifies the “lines of action”: security, common action for energy efficiency, open trade. “The EU must be a global ethical leader”. The speaker then addressed other issues: the presence of the EU in other continents, “the European vision of all Balkan States” and implementing new instruments under the Lisbon Treaty “to make “citizens feel closer to EU institutions”. In one of the few passages dedicated to the “ideals” on which the EU must be founded, Zapatero stated: “Europe has its roots in all cultural, religious and civil traditions that flourished across the continent”. He then spoke of tolerance and respect: “Freedom demands tolerance and the equal dignity of all religions”.

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